EARLY — An opportunity to level their District 6-3A volleyball record at 1-1 slipped through the Early Lady Horns’ fingertips Tuesday night as the Eastland Lady Mavs rallied from a two sets-to-none deficit to claim a five-set victory.

Early (0-2 in district) put an apparent stranglehold on the match with victories of 25-21 and 25-13 in the first two sets, but everything came unraveled for the Lady Horns as an increased number of unforced errors allowed Eastland (1-1 in district) to claim the final three sets, 25-16, 25-13, 15-13.

“This was the toughest loss of the season,” said Lady Horns first-year head coach Natalie Whitewood. “We lost a game we should have won. Tomorrow we get back to work and persevere and keep working until we get it right.”

In the tie-breaking fifth set, Early jumped out to a 6-3 lead thanks in part to kills from Ellie Ryan and Lainey Speck, along with one from Emma Loven on the back row. But in a mirror image of earlier in the match, Eastland dug itself out of a hole with four straight points to grab a 7-6 edge.

A kill from Jenna Whitehead allowed Early to pull even at 7-all, but Eastland fired back with the next two points. A spike by Ryan and a tip from Kacee Gober again knotted the score at 9.

Eastland tallied three of the next four points, but a block from Gober closed the gap to 12-11 and, following an errant hit by the Lady Mavs, another kill from Whitehead evened the score at 13.

The Lady Mavs, however, chalked up two quick points to complete the improbable comeback.

Ryan recorded a team-best nine kills followed by Gober with six, Speck, Whitehead and Trinity Tomlinson with four each, Loven and Hope Boswell with two apiece and Morgan Luckie and Vance-Cady Gordon with one each.

CyLee Tyson dished out 17 assists, Gordon added 10 and Ryan and Speck were credited with one each.

Brilee Tabor tallied a team-high two aces while Tyson, Speck and Tomlinson each served one.

On the defensive end, Tomlinson notched 25 digs trailed by Loven with 20, Tyson with 11, Speck and Hallie Brinson with seven each, Gober with six, Gordon with four, Tabor with three, Whitehead with two, and Ryan and Boswell with one apiece.

At the net, Gober collected eight blocks, Ryan tallied two and Speck finished with one.

In the opening set, Early raced out to a 9-3 lead on two kills and a block for points by Gober, along with a kill from Speck. Eastland pulled even at 12, however, and eventually seized a 20-18 advantage. The Lady Horns tallied seven of the final eight points, however, as consecutive aces from Tabor allowed Early to knot the score at 21, then take a 22-21 lead. Boswell added a kill for the 23rd point, then a couple of Eastland miscues ended the set.

Early grabbed a 12-4 advantage in the second set with a kill from Tomlinson, an ace from Tyson and a block by Gober, while Eastland continued to hurt itself with unforced errors. The Lady Mavs closed the gap to 13-10, but a kill by Ryan triggered a run of nine straight Lady Horn points. Leading 20-13, Gober’s tip stretched the lead back to eight points, while Eastland mistakes resulted in Early’s final four points.

In the third and fourth sets, Early never led as the Lady Horns were plagued by their own run of unforced errors. The Lady Horns fell behind 4-0 in the third set and allowed 11 of the first 17 points, followed by giving up 12 of the first 16 in the fourth set.

Early will attempt to bounce back at Bangs (0-2 in district) at noon Saturday.